Watch CBS News

I-Team: The Politics Of Marijuana Legalization

BOSTON (CBS) - Get ready for a media blitz as supporters and opponents try to convince you to take sides on the issue of marijuana legalization.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol says it will be on television, radio and online.

Related: I-Team - Pot or Not

"The message is that thousands of people in Massachusetts use marijuana," says campaign manager Will Luzier. "Those people are being driven to a criminal market."

Luzier, who is spearheading the Massachusetts ballot question and says they will be out there with their message, "as much as we can afford."

That may be a lot in legalization ballot questions in Colorado and Washington, pro marijuana groups spent $9 million dollars and won.

On the flip side, police chiefs and the state's most recognizable politicians like Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey are lining up in opposition.

"Nobody's made a good argument for the legalization of marijuana," Walsh told WBZ.

Unlike in other states where public officials spoke out forcefully but didn't muster money or resources to fight, Massachusetts leaders are organizing.

The push for legal pot is a national campaign. The ballot questions are similarly written and the campaigns have a similar playbook. One big aspect is taking advantage of large voter turnout in the presidential election.

Full legalization is on the ballot in five states including Massachusetts. Medical marijuana is on the ballot in others.

"What we see in presidential years is you have young voters and disenfranchised voters that turn out and by large numbers, those people support ending marijuana prohibition," says Brian Vicente, a Denver lawyer who wrote Colorado's law and has been active in the Massachusetts question.

Massachusetts voters have a history of supporting marijuana. 63 percent voted in favor of medical use in 2012. Four years earlier they backed decriminalization of pot.

Two groups could be key to this year's ballot question. College students will be a target of pro-legalization forces. National surveys show just over half of adults support legalizing marijuana, but nearly 70 percent of young people do. Pro-pot organizers will be in force on campuses registering students to vote.

Women between the ages of 25 and 45 tend to be the toughest sell advocates say. Many are mothers who are leery of legalization.

Right now polling shows 57 percent of Massachusetts voters support legalization. Proponents are hoping to reach 60 percent to give the ballot question a real mandate in the eyes of public officials.

Walsh says he believes the more people learn, the less they will support legal pot.

"I think when people understand and understand a personal story that might have hit their family or someone else's family they know, they'll get it," he said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.